Just like the Aussies and Kiwis fight over pavlova, the origins of laksa are hotly contested among Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The truth is, laksa is a culmination of all of these cuisines, including the Chinese-Malay Peranakan culture, making laksa a true melting pot of Asia in every bowl.
There’s a wealth of regional and national variations, as you’ll discover in this spotlight on laksa, covering curry laksa, assam laksa and sarawak laksa.
When you think of laksa, chances are curry laksa is the style that springs to mind. Rich with coconut milk and candlenuts, and heady with turmeric, coriander and lemongrass, this luscious, aromatic broth is commonly served in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, in Penang, where it’s known as ‘curry mee’ and served with yellow noodles, and in Indonesia, where it features thin rice vermicelli. Popular toppings include fried tofu puffs (perfect for soaking up that spicy soup), fish cakes and kesom (also known as laksa leaf or hot mint). Prawns or chicken are the preferred proteins, along with a hard-boiled egg.
Also known as Penang laksa, assam laksa uses tangy tamarind peel (assam keping) as the base for its sour soup. Prawn paste adds an earthy, salty funk, slivers of mackerel provide extra fishy flavour, and bunga kantan (or torch ginger) is used as a zesty, aromatic garnish. Smooth, cylindrical rice noodles are used, and the refreshing garnishes include diced fresh pineapple, cooling cucumber, red onion, chilli, lettuce and mint.
Try Assam Laksa
Hailing from the islands of Malaysian Borneo, sarawak laksa is a punchy variation, using sambal belacan (shrimp paste), coconut milk and sour tamarind as its base, along with a homemade chicken and prawn stock. Toppings unique to Sarawak laksa included strips of omelette, shredded poached chicken and blanched prawns, garnished with a flurry of fresh coriander leaves.
An Indonesian specialty from Bogor city in West Java, Bogor is a variation of curry laksa. The thick, yellow broth gets its distinctive nutty flavour from oncom, a fermented bean cake similar to tempeh. It’s poured over rice vermicelli and glutinous rice cakes, then garnished with hard-boiled egg, shredded chicken and ground dried shrimp, and served with a piquant sambal.
We know this is just the tip of the laksa iceberg, with countless variations available! Try our authentic Malaysian recipes.
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